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College Athletics: Gopher coaches shine at Cragun's

EAST GULL LAKE--Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake hosted the seventh leg of the Gopher Road Trip Wednesday, May 23. Local fans had the opportunity to come out and meet their favorite coaches including head football coach P.J. Fleck, men's basketball c...

New University of Minnesota men’s hockey coach Bob Motzko (center), with Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake owner Dutch Cragun (right), talks with people attending the Gopher Road Trip Wednesday at Cragun’s Resort Legacy Pavilion. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video
New University of Minnesota men’s hockey coach Bob Motzko (center), with Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake owner Dutch Cragun (right), talks with people attending the Gopher Road Trip Wednesday at Cragun’s Resort Legacy Pavilion. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video

EAST GULL LAKE-Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake hosted the seventh leg of the Gopher Road Trip Wednesday, May 23.

Local fans had the opportunity to come out and meet their favorite coaches including head football coach P.J. Fleck, men's basketball coach Richard Pitino, men's hockey coach Bob Motzko and Director of Athletics Mark Coyle.

"I was upset when we couldn't get this event last year," Cragun's Resort owner Dutch Cragun said. "We couldn't have been more excited to host (the Gopher Road Trip) this summer."

The Gophers faithful came out to the free event to hear and speak to their favorite Minnesota coaches and media members.

"We love every fan that comes down to the games," Gopher Radio Network commentator Mike Grimm said. "This is our chance to return the favor."

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The caravan is in the middle of its second summer tour. Each tour lasts two days with two stops per day.

Some of the coaches making the trip are seasoned veterans, like women's swimming and diving coach Terry Ganley, men's golf coach John Carlson and rowing coach Wendy Davis.

"When I came to the University of Minnesota I knew the kind of coaches I was going to be able to work with," Coyle said. "We have an incredible staff here and I'm excited to see what they'll be able to do in the coming years."

Some coaches aren't as tenured as the rest. Motzko was hired 40 days before he was thrown into the spotlight.

"I got hired as the men's hockey coach and I got to be on TV and the radio a whole lot," Motzko said. "I was starting to feel like I was a pretty big deal. Then Lindsay Whalen was hired."

Motzko wasn't the only one who loved to joke with the crowd. Fleck took several jabs at his next-door neighbor Pitino when he got the mic.

"I know we went 5-7 last year and all of us weren't too excited about it," Fleck said. "Then basketball season came around and I didn't feel so bad anymore."

Fleck and Pitino threw several friendly jabs about each other's program throughout the night.

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One of the main themes of the conference was the University of Minnesota athletics program is a program set to thrive in the future. For some coaches, they believe the future is today.

"We are primed to win now and compete for a Big Ten championship," Pitino said. "This is the most confident I have ever felt about any of the teams I have coached."

The men's basketball team isn't the only program that is trying to rebuild a tradition of excellence.

"My goal isn't to create a great program just to have it fail in the future," Fleck said. "I'm going to coach here for as long as people let me and I am going to get this program to an elite and championship level on a consistent basis."

The Gophers athletics program prides itself on being successful in more ways than on the field. Coyle spoke in great length about how he wants to maintain the success in the classroom for all of his student athletes.

"Our goal every day is to compete against the rest of the Big Ten Conference," Coyle said. "Academically, athletically and socially, we want to be the best."

The Gopher Road Trip continues on its final leg of the tour in Perham and Alexandria.

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